Jody Brady and her husband moved into their tiny house on wheels two years ago. She would prefer not to disclose its exact location, saying it is about 1 ½ hours west of Washington, DC, in the Virginia Blue Ridge Mountains. They pay a small rent to a friend. Their home is registered with the MVA as a travel trailer, and they use an adjacent attic apartment as their legal address.
“We’ve had a lot of beautiful homes but this is our favorite. Our Arlington [Virginia] house was special because we lived there with our kids and other family members, but we love this one the most.”
After the kids grew up and left, their family home was simply too large. “We were those people for a few years,” said Brady. “We said to ourselves, ‘we don’t own this house it owns us.’ We were both working fulltime jobs to pay for it and we had to ask ourselves ‘Why?’ We played a game of who walked into a specific room last and neither one of us could remember.”
“My husband, Bill, was a CFO for a government agency. I was always a writer-editor. Working in a basement cubicle was the job that inspired me to leave,” said Brady.
“Selling the Arlington house in 2008 allowed us to quit our jobs and travel for a while. We’ve done a lot of things since then. It was really freeing. We rented a two-bedroom apartment and it was too big. Then we rented a one-bedroom apartment, and it was too big,” recalled Brady.
Today, Jody Brady is a writer and editor and she telecommutes. Bill does odd jobs in construction for people.
“DOE Solar Decathlons held on The Mall in DC were our inspiration,” said Brady. “Small and more sustainable was the objective. The natural move was to a tiny house.”
The Bradys built their house and an adjacent screen house themselves. The house is 250 sq. ft., 24 feet long and does not have a loft.
“We built 12 feet wide which allows us to have a first-floor bedroom. We’re 60 and climbing up a ladder to bed would get a little old after a while. If you’re planning to take it up and down the road all the time, I wouldn’t recommend [an oversized] house, but if you plan to stay put, you can go wider,” said Brady. “If we want to move it, a permit would be $100, so it’s doable.”
“We, for better or worse, designed and built the house ourselves. There are a few things, if you’re going down that route, we could have done better. We didn’t do anything about ventilation, and are now retrofitting an air exchanger. We meant to have a rain screen product between the house wrap and the siding and we simply forgot to add it while we were building it,” admitted Brady.
“Ethan Waldman has a great book, Tiny House Decisions, that contains checklists so you don’t forget something important as part of your DIY. I highly recommend that book,” said Brady.
“We spent $40,000 on materials and provided all the labor. We have some expensive elements in it, including all-new doors and windows. It’s mostly solar, and we use a composting toilet,” said Brady.
“There is no reason why people can’t live in smaller houses. The zoning should be changed, but the real estate industry doesn’t want this; mortgage brokers and developers,” said Brady.
“Part of loving living in a tiny house is the outdoor spaces. We’re people who love being outside. Our house has a patio, campfire area, deck and screen house. If you want to be inside all the time, a tiny house might not be for you,” cautions Brady.
“We don’t have AC, but we have good cross-ventilation. The house has 11 windows, three doors and three ceiling fans, and we have good air flow. Plus, we have a Kimberly wood stove, which, if anything, makes the house too hot. We have a backup convection heater that will keep it above freezing while we’re away,” said Brady.
“When it’s dark, cold and snowy, it’s a period when I read more books,” explained Brady. “But I walk every day regardless of the weather.”
The Bradys frequently speak at tiny house events and Jody Brady blogs about her tiny house lifestyle and related topics on Simply Enough. They plan to attend the Mid-Atlantic Tiny House Expo later this month.